~ If it wasn't enough that it's summer, it's also National Piña Colada Day this Friday. ~
The middle of summer seems like the right time to select a day for National Piña Colada Day, right? Friday is the official day for Rupert Holmes song puns and coconut bras to accompany overly garnished piña coladas across the land. But, wait a second, this drink doesn't have to be made by a sticky machine and have pirate icons sticking out of the top of the glassware. This cocktail can be excellent when made by the right bartender, and the history is equally as captivating.
Across Puerto Rico, a few variations of the drink's origin remain part of it's legacy. We do know it was created in the 1950s in San Juan. The Spanish translation for the cocktail means strained pineapple. Here's the sweet punch to this drink's history - actress Joan Crawford reportedly said it was “better than slapping Bette Davis in the face” after tasting it at the Caribe Hotel in San Juan, one of the possible locations where the drink started.
Once word about the drink reached the U.S., and the popularity of electric blenders grew, the cocktail found its place in pop culture. In 1978, Puerto Rico declared the piña colada the country's national drink of the country - one year before the song Escape reached the top 100 in the charts. To this day, it's labeled as a classic cocktail, and hoisted high at humid summer gatherings.
Left: Rupert Holmes is best known for his Piña Colada song, Escape.
Right: The Caribe Hilton Hotel in San Juan, where the piña colada is said to have been invented.
What is it? A piña colada should have rum as the alcohol base, pineapple juice and coconut cream. It's served cold and creamy with a fruit garnish. A few recipe variations are out there, including cocktail historian David Wondrich's version on Esquire, and the version on Imbibe.com.
How to serve it? This is where it really gets entertaining. We've seen everything from a pint glass to a coconut cut in half to a ceramic pirate's head. I have to defer to the setting where you are drinking it. At a classic cocktail bar, why not hand it over to a guest in a coupe or hurricane glass, and if your serving it up at a full-blown tiki party, you better get creative and think kitschy.
Pics of Don the Beachcomber bar, past and present.
Where to drink one? If you are at a beach resort there's a good chance you'll get a fabricated drink - typically a "pull the level, here it comes" setup. The U.S. is seeing a surge of good tiki bars, and it's likely you can find a well crafted piña colada at one near you.
Two favorites that we've visited recently include Three Dots and a Dash and Taha'a Twisted Tiki. Thrillist and Liquor.com both have great lists for new spots, and we're loving the continued growth in popularity - we even mentioned this would be a cocktail trend in a tweet over 4 years ago. A few last words on the tiki bar god, Don the Beachcomber here, to set the mood for your day before you carry on and get caught in the rain.
~ Join the Conversation ~